After the momentum President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gained after the quick passage of the historical COVID-19 relief plan in March—almost entirely without Republican help—progress has virtually ground to a stop. Biden spent a good chunk of April, all of May, and now the first half of June pursuing a bipartisan agreement in the Senate on his next big initiative, the infrastructure bill. And still, it's not clear that any movement from Republicans has been forthcoming, although they have wrested about $1 trillion away from Biden's initial $2.3 trillion proposal. That's
Now Schumer says they are going to move forward on two tracks, one of which is using budget reconciliation. This will allow part of it to pass with just Democratic votes "even if it doesn't have bipartisan support." He said bipartisan talks on the other package will continue, but: "In order to move forward on infrastructure, we must include bold action on climate." Here's the big question, though: When is this moving forward happening? Because time is running out, along with momentum.
The House and Senate are scheduled to work the next three weeks, and then take a 10-day break for the July 4 recess. Then there will be just nine days in which both the House and Senate are in before the August recess, which lasts until Sept. 13 for the Senate, Sept. 20 for the House. So it really shouldn't be called "August recess." And it really should not be happening.
As always, there are a whole bunch of things that have to happen by the end of September. One of those things is either budget bills that pay for fiscal year 2022, which starts on Oct. 1, or a continuing resolution that keeps government funded and operating. The current debt ceiling expires on July 31, though administrations are always able to juggle a few months’ worth of more time—a drop-dead date is now expected in late October. Congress usually combines debt ceilings, budgets, and government funding all at the same time. There will be angst.
In addition to an infrastructure bill, there are several high-stakes bills Schumer is going to try to tackle in June that could well carry over into July and then September. That includes the critical voting rights/election reform "For the People Act," and the Equality Act to extend all civil protections against discrimination to LGBTQ citizens.
We've also seen unacceptable levels of gun violence not just in the last few weeks, but in the last 24 hours. It would be nice if a Democratic House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic president decided to try to do something about that. Talks have also continued between the House and Senate on a bipartisan basis on police reform, though that is hitting the usual Republican intransigence on key issues.
And there's that whole “Republicans trying to destroy democracy forever” thing, which is just slightly urgent.
And now we've got Sen. Mitch McConnell saying there will never be another Democratic Supreme Court nominee during a Republican Senate. How many red, flashing danger signs are Democrats going to continue to operate under before there's a sense of urgency?
All those days off they've got ahead of them? Those need to be cancelled, mostly just in the Senate. The House has got a lot of work done already, but since we're going to need them around to save the world, too, it would be better if they didn't get recess either.
It might also just work to bring Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema around—tell them they don't get a break until they produce statements on live tv from 10 Republicans who will support Democratic efforts to secure the vote for everyone and, well, save the world. They get those 10 votes, then they can have vacation.
Taking away his recess is one way to try that. It also just needs to happen. The Senate has got far too much to accomplish to be swanning off for more than half the summer.